8 Things
Stephan Jaklitsch, architect

In the world of retail, there is a tendency towards sameness, a familiarity designed to lull shoppers into a complacent state in which they might begin to feel it’s okay to spend a lot of money. A Zara, anywhere in the world, is immediately identifiable by its gold-toned lighting and rows of shoes lined up haphazardly underneath the clothes; a Marni boutique leaves its mark with swooping stainless-steel rails and elliptical cutouts in the ceilings. As a brand, Marc Jacobs has never been about uniformity, though — this is a fashion designer, after all, who’s gone from the most infamous collection of grunge in history to the luxurious heights of Louis Vuitton — so why should his stores? “There are certain iconic elements that are repeated,” admits Stephan Jaklitsch, the New York–based architect who’s been responsible for Jacobs’s bricks-and-mortar for more than 10 years, “but in general, each store relates to its own specific building type, to the city’s specific urban condition, and to the architecture of the individual space. Although they’re identifiably connected, every one of them has a particular feel.”

All of which makes sense considering the odd spots Jaklitsch has had to design around since joining forces with the brand in 1999, just a year after he struck out on his own after having worked for firms like Michael Graves post–architecture school. He was hired partly on the strength of his residential renovation for Jacobs’s business partner Robert Duffy, and the San Francisco Marc by Marc Jacobs flagship was the first he designed for the pair. In the beginning, Jaklitsch says, he was taking cues from the brand’s first store, located in an old garage on New York’s Mercer Street. “It wasn’t really designed,” he says. “It was bare walls, painted white, a floor that was painted black, and industrial rolling racks. It was extremely simple, down to earth, and chic as a result of all that. The San Francisco store took the level of luxury up a bit.” Since then, he’s worked with an abandoned warehouse in Savannah, Georgia, a 17th-century trio of spaces in Milan, and seven bays of the Palais de Royale in Paris, where he ended up consulting with the Ministry of Culture in order to create a new façade. “The problem was how to respect the original architecture without being kitsch copy of it,” Jaklitsch says.

Like most architects, problems are something Jaklitsch thrives on; they’re part of what keeps him creatively inspired when he is, at the end of the day, working with the same brand year in and year out. (Other notable projects include a series of modernist residences in Manhattan and beyond, as well as new shops for the Moscot brand of eyeglasses.) His other primary sources of inspiration are travel, which he does a great deal of for the Marc Jacobs stores, and the eight things that follow.

01 Fantail Pigeon

Milton Avery’s Fantail Pigeon: “I’ve always loved the way Avery concisely represents this 3-D figure in a very 2-D manner. In a few simple moves, he captures the essence of the bird’s movement and figure. The odd shape of the body is rendered flat, but reads as a volume when you step back; the head is simply a void cut out of the body with a triangle of beak attached; and the tail is a crude line drawing pasted onto the body. The entire image is rendered in a rough, almost childlike manner yet exudes an elegant refinement.”

Marc Jacobs Milan

Milton Avery’s Fantail Pigeon: A replica hangs in Jaklitsch’s apartment, but the work has found its way into other aspects of his life as well: The same deep blue is one of the rare shots of color in the Marc by Marc palette, popping up first in the Harajuku store and most recently in the Milan café, shown above. “In L.A., everything got painted a blue monochrome,” says Jaklitsch. “It becomes almost a neutral background that accentuates the merchandise.”

05 Lichens-1

Lichens, ferns, mosses, cacti, natural structures, and biophilia: Jaklitsch is fascinated by the patterns inherent in nature; he’s an avid collector of mushrooms, shells, pine cones, birch bark, lichen, and mosses, some of which have inspired a line of products he’s working on but can’t say much about. “I’m intrigued by how the structure of organic elements can play a role in architecture and product design,” he says.

DSC09456 Orange lichens

Lichens, ferns, mosses, cacti, natural structures, and biophilia: “I’ve found myself becoming immersed in very old and primitive forms of life and structures. These plants are much older than flowering plants and much more interesting to me. Map lichen, or what I call green-tea lichen, is one of my favorites.”

06 Alex Maclean parkerplaats

The photography of Alex S. MacLean: “I have this image of a parking lot in my home to remind me of the man-made structures, patterns, and topographies that dot our landscape, and what a substantial effect on our environment we have. MacLean flies around the United States in his plane and documents these landscapes. The views are extraordinary and remind me of the scale of man to the land.”

03 Hiragiiya Ryokan-2

Hiiragiya Ryokan in Kyoto: “This is one of the most extraordinary hotels I’ve ever stayed in. At once simple and amazingly complex, it made me completely rethink the notion of luxury and space and how they are perceived by different cultures. Built in 1861, the building’s relatively simple systems of sliding doors, translucent transom screens, fusuma (panels of heavy, opaque paper), shoji screens, and wooden-framed glass panels can be manipulated to adjust, completely, one’s perception of space by providing scale or curtailing the view.”

03 Hiragiiya Ryokan-1

Hiiragiya Ryokan in Kyoto: “Each element of the system — in addition to the overhead beams, tatami flooring, wooden terrace, and exterior garden wall — is essential in framing the view and layering the depth of the space and contributes to the perception of the whole. But a few easy manipulations of the elements and the entire conception of the space changes.”

02 Vernacular Architecture-1

Vernacular architecture: “I was driving through a remote valley in Norway and came across these nine old milkmaid huts clustered on a mountainside. They were extraordinary and caught my attention right away. When I travel in general, I try to look at the seemingly 'undesigned' structures that are everywhere. Sheds, barns, storage buildings, dwellings, warehouses — these can demonstrate so much about the character and climate of a place because they’re usually reduced to their most essential elements and constructed with a simplicity of materials and details that is tested over time.”

02 Vernacular Architecture-2

Vernacular architecture: “These were used during summers up until the 1960s and appear to be growing out of the boulders and moss covering the slope above the road. The rough-hewn stone, weathered boards, and birch-bark and grass-sod roof combine to provide a striking visual texture perfectly in harmony with their surroundings. There are lessons in these structures that can then be applied to more complex buildings.”

05-007-01A(C)

Vernacular architecture: In a small way, Jaklitsch practices his own sort of vernacular architecture with the Marc Jacobs shops, most of which have been inserted into existing structures. He takes pains to make each store location-specific and to honor the site's original intent, whether it's an old tobacco warehouse in Savannah, Georgia, a shop in strip-mall-happy Los Angeles, or a renovation inside Paris's Palais de Royale.

04 NYC-1

New York City: “Rooftop water tanks, fire-escape stairs suspended off of buildings, metal awnings with their tension support rods tied back to buildings, and steel fire shutters are the things I first noticed in New York. They exist as a delicate, skeletal counterpoint to the heavy mass of buildings that fill out every block in the city. These utilitarian elements, often technologically outdated and sometimes illegally installed, also serve to catch the light of the sun and cast shadows on the façade of buildings. The visual patterns of light and shadow are incredible, providing scale and visual interest, and change as the sun shifts during the course of the day.”

04 NYC-2

New York City: “These secondary parts of structures have become emblematic of the urban environment and are used as cultural references. Their seeming randomness and visual chaos reinforces the dynamic essence of the city, and yet they have a logic all their own. For example, the steel rings on the side of water tanks are spaced precisely to counteract the pressure of the water inside, gathering towards the bottom of the tanks. I love that ruthless functionalism, following a logarithmic pattern that offers just enough visual variation to add an element of poetry.”

07 Revival Field

Revival Field by Mel Chin: “This sculpture created by artist Mel Chin uses materials and process that might seem outside the realm of art — soil, plant materials, biochemistry, and agriculture. Six kinds of plants known as hyperaccumulators are tested in this art lab for their effectiveness in absorbing heavy metals through their leaves and roots, thus cleansing the soil. As Chin says: ‘We live in a world of pollution with heavy metals saturating the soil, where there is no solution to that. If that (pollution) could be carved away, and life could return to that soil, then a diverse and ecologically balanced life, then that is a wonderful sculpture.’”

08 Algues-2

Algue by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec: “Algue hangs in my office as a screen. I love that it approaches architecture from the part to the whole in a ground-up approach. It’s an open-ended pattern that can be additive and reductive, assembled piece-by-piece as pattern or pixel. It’s a reminder of the role of repetition or series in design and the properties of the detail, which are inherent in any assembly.”

01_MarcJacobsAoyama

Jaklitsch’s penchant for pattern and texture is on view in the new Tokyo flagship — the first ground-up store for the brand — that opened earlier this month. Jaklitsch covered the three floors of the facade with contrasting materials — transparent glass on one; jagged, dark brown porcelain tiles on two; and a glowing shell of perforated aluminum panels and LED-illuminated tensile fabric on three.